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Wednesday, 20 August 1902

Mr KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie) - I presume that the Minister in charge of the Bill will reply to the speeches that have been made, and I should like to know why the measure contains no reference to the postal rates on letters. I know that this is a matter which may be dealt with by regulation, but the question of penny postage has excited a considerable amount of attention all over the Commonwealth and in Great Britain, and ought to be dealt with in the Bill. At any rate, we ought to have some explanation why the penny postage system has not been proposed. The experience of the system in Victoria leads one to suppose that it would not be productive of the great loss which is generally anticipated. The returns lately issued of the revenue and expenditure of the Postal department in the various States show that, notwithstanding the penny postage, Victoria is to the good to the extent of £14,389.

Mr Isaacs - What does the honorable member mean by " to the good"?

Mr KIRWAN - I mean that the revenue exceeded the expenditure by that amount, notwithstanding the fact that there has been penny postage for the past year.

Mr Isaacs - Howmuch has Victoria lost by penny postage ?

Mr KIRWAN - I am told that the loss is something like £12,000, which is not nearly so much as was generally anticipated ; and if the loss to the Commonwealth were in the same proportion, it would not be more than £40,000. But we must not forget that the experience elsewhere has been a considerable increase of business under penny postage, and it is doubtful whether, in the final result, there would be any loss. At any rate, I think the Minister might give reasons why the Government have not proposed to introduce the system. One representative of Victoria has advocated the zone system. That system, inmy opinion, is very objectionable from several points of view, producing, as it would, a far more complicated system of bookkeeping than that proposed by the Government. A zone system might be very suitable, perhaps, in a country of small area like Victoria, but it would not be successful in the Commonwealth generally. Australia is a country of great distances, and it is often remarked that one of the great evils under which we suffer is that such huge numbers of people are congregated in the big cities. The zone system would to a certain extent handicap people who live in the interior. Those people might not regard cheaper telegrams as a verygreat boon, but whatever little can be done ought to be done in order to improve their position, so that they may not be placed at a disadvantage as compared with the residents of the towns. In favour of the zone system it has been urged that the proposals of the Government tend to perpetuate the lines of distinction between the various States. But so long as we have federation we cannot altogether eliminate these differences or distinctions ; if they were to be altogether eliminated, there would be not a federation, but a unification, of Australia. That is altogether foreign to the intentions of those who voted for the Federal Constitution. There is something to be said in favour of not perpetuating these differences more than can be helped, but the zone system will not do away with the parochial difficulty. I should like to see the telegraph rates made uniform for the whole Commonwealth, and I shall therefore have much pleasure in supporting the suggested amendment of the honorable member for Grampians. There is an objection to the zone system similar to that which has been raised against the proposals of the Government. It has been pointed out that whereas a person may send a telegram any distance within the State for a certain charge, he cannot send it a mile or more, without paying a higher charge, if it is addressed to some one in another State. In the same way, under the zone system, while all telegrams sent from one place to another within a zone would be charged the same rate, telegrams from one zone to another, although sent, perhaps, very short distances, would be charged higher rates.

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